Inspired to bring health care to the homeless


Dr. Richard Bryce, Detroit Street Care faculty advisor, discusses the need and inspiration to bring health care to individuals experiencing homelessness.


The MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine proudly partners with community-based hospitals and health centers because we believe quality, whole-person health care should be available to everyone. Some of our faculty work at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), and go above and beyond to bring care to the community, including through student-run organizations such as Detroit Street Care and Spartan Street Medicine. Outreach and offering compassionate care and connections to resources are tangible ways our SpartanDO doctors and student-doctors embody our college’s values.

It’s National Health Center Week, and today’s theme focuses on Health Care for the Homeless.

Dr. Richard Bryce, Detroit Street Care faculty advisor, praises the students for making caring for the health of the homeless population possible: “The students are the heart and soul of Detroit Street Care. They take it to new levels. They care about their patients. They make a difference and inspire me and make me a better physician. The students are so compassionate, caring and driven.”

As a family physician at the Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS) in Detroit, an FQHC, Bryce recounts Detroit Street Care’s recent collaboration with CHASS and the TCF Center (formerly Cobo Hall) to distribute vaccines to individuals experiencing homelessness in the city. The student-doctors brought vaccines out to the streets to find people who needed it and set up a vaccination station in the TCF Center. Detroit Street Care members visited parks and homeless camping sites. The unhoused individuals “appreciated that they could get the vaccine and that they didn’t have to go somewhere they didn’t feel safe or unwelcome,” says Bryce.

The vaccine distribution effort was especially successful, considering the fierce advocacy CHASS and Detroit Street Care provided to ensure vaccine doses were available to homeless individuals. Bryce credits Felix Valbuena, the CEO at CHASS, who “stuck his neck out for us when no one else would.”

The group has since distributed all the doses they had, and are in talks with the health department to get more.

He also acknowledges Covenant Community Care and other community partners critical to supporting homeless health. “Unsheltered homeless don’t reach out for resources — those are the people we take care of on a day-to-day basis. We go out as an organization with our community partners to find people who need support,” he explains.

“The thing for me that’s always important and why I enjoy it is the incredible people I meet on street runs — the stories that you hear, the generosity — it’s inspiring. We meet friendly, helpful, gracious people. The students pack lunch bags each week filled with food, water and basic necessities, and people are so thankful that we’re thinking of them and treating them with respect. I appreciate that they allow us to come into their lives. It makes me a better person to interact and become friends with the people we meet on the street. It’s so motivating for any doctor. Being homeless is lonely — often you aren’t cared for. We get to do that. It’s inspiring.”

Detroit Street Care was the college’s first established medical street outreach program. Its popularity and effectiveness inspired a similar program, Spartan Street Medicine, on the East Lansing campus. Now the Macomb campus is in the process of starting one. Though the populations all have challenges in different ways, the need is there and once again the SpartanDO community is stepping up to care for the community. Spartans Will.

Learn more about MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine's clinical outreach efforts here.